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January 22, 2007 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Investigation reveals British Police knowingly employed serial killers as informers. Or should that be "knowingly employed informers as serial killers"? Film at 11.
posted by dash_slot- (36 comments total)

 
A loyalist paramilitary gang was involved in up to 15 murders in the 1990s while being protected by Special Branch handlers, a damning report said today.

The report pointed to "disturbing" levels of collusion between the security forces and the paramilitaries.

The document was the result of a three-year inquiry by the Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan. It found that in return for acting as informers, members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) had escaped prosecution.

She found that information on their crimes had been withheld from detectives investigating the killings.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:09 PM on January 22, 2007


Hmm... "Serial killers" seems a bit off. It brings to mind Ted Bundy or something, not a bunch of gangster bigots.
posted by Artw at 3:21 PM on January 22, 2007


but the overtime was killing us.
posted by hal9k at 3:27 PM on January 22, 2007


On a pedantic note, I'd like to point out that the term "serial killer" does not apply in this case. Rather, it appears we're talking about organized crime (which is a different animal entirely). A serial killer would likely be unable to offer law enforcement any useful information above and beyond the how and the why of their own crimes.

That out of the way, this is a remarkable story. Perhaps the most unbelievable part is that it appears the people responsible won't be prosecuted because they destroyed their own evidence (well, duh--who wouldn't?).

Film at 11.

Forget the news. This is Hollywood material.
posted by The God Complex at 3:27 PM on January 22, 2007


Well, it just seemed accurate, you know. Some of these guys repeatedly killed in a pattern of brutality. How would you define 'serial killer' in a way that excluded these guys?

The remarkable thing is: policemen paid them, covered up for them and coached them in answering other cops questions.

All this in the UK. SHIT.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:28 PM on January 22, 2007


Well, it just seemed accurate, you know. Some of these guys repeatedly killed in a pattern of brutality. How would you define 'serial killer' in a way that excluded these guys?

Easily. Most serial killers commit their crimes to fulfill a psychological desire--perhaps even an imperative. They're usually solitary types though some notable "teams" exist on record. Most importantly, their deviance is the result of deeply rooted psychological issues, often based in childhood abuse, and the fantasy elements of the crime (first the idea, then the planning) are almost as important as the crime itself. And, perhaps most importantly, once the urge has been met, the serial killer often has a cooling off period--a hibernation, if you will--wherein they live a normal life until the imperative to kill returns.

This is a quick and dirty version, but you could find a number of resources on the net. In fact, the Wikipedia entry serves as a good starting point. At any rate, this is approaching perverse pedantry and is wildly off-topic. But you asked! ;)
posted by The God Complex at 3:36 PM on January 22, 2007


I forgot to mention: in contrast, many of the killings/assaults mentioned in your "serial killers" link are actually relatively run-of-the-mill organized crime: killing police informants, etc.

It doesn't make it any less deplorable, mind you. The only reason I reacted to the "serial killers" line is because when I read your FPP I immediately thought of someone like Bundy or Dahmer and couldn't for the life of me figure out what kind of useful information these people would be kept around for.
posted by The God Complex at 3:38 PM on January 22, 2007


In Ireland, the line between gangsterism, assassination, and serial murder has been blurred before.
posted by stammer at 3:47 PM on January 22, 2007


While we're on the pedantry, Northern Ireland isn't in the British Isles (it's the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), so it's not strictly 'British Police' who did this.
posted by runkelfinker at 3:48 PM on January 22, 2007


I agree - whether it fits any particular definition is a bit of a side issue. But I was reading the wiki link as you were writing your last comment - and i'd say there are definite similarities (including childhood abuse, a cooling off period, fantasy, planning & psychopathology). We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:51 PM on January 22, 2007


On a related subject, I highly recommend the Atlantic Monthly article "Double Blind: the untold story of how British Intelligence infiltrated and undermined the IRA."

An excerpt:
In 1980, after a couple of years working as a British spy—arranging meetings, handing over tidbits—Scappaticci joined the IRA’s internal security unit, which IRA men called the Nutting Squad. “Nut is Irish slang for the head. When the Nutting Squad found a snitch or a British spy, its interrogators typically tortured him, squeezed him for information, then “nutted” him with a pair of bullets to the brain.

Scappaticci’s history as an IRA sharpshooter gave him an advantage as an agent, and he quickly made his way to the top of the Nutting Squad. The achievement reveals either a tactical brilliance or a profound stroke of luck. The position gave him access to the IRA’s innermost secrets: missions completed and upcoming; arms storage sites; travel and security details; bombing and assassination targets. Over several years he helped foil numerous killings and kidnappings, and the information he provided to the British so dazzled his handlers that they passed it along to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher herself.

Moreover, his position atop the Nutting Squad made him untouchable. If the IRA leaders ever suspected an infiltration, they reported it to the Nutting Squad—and so to Scappaticci. If his own activities ever drew suspicion, he could simply divert attention by fingering an innocent man. Some British press reports estimate he killed as many as forty people. A former British spy handler who worked at the time of Scappaticci’s rise—a man who now goes by the name Martin Ingram—puts the death toll lower, but still “well into the tens,” including other agents. He said it all fit into the larger British strategy. “Agents have killed, and killed, and have killed,” Ingram told me. “Many, many, many people.”

...

I put it to Martin Ingram, the former spy handler, that in the case of Scappaticci, the British strategy had gone amok.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I think it went very much to schedule.”

“So you think—”

“I don’t think, I know. He was acting to orders.”

So the British government knew of Scappaticci’s killings?

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “The one preconception the IRA had is that if you are dirty—that is, if you have killed—then you cannot be an agent.” Scappaticci exploited that misapprehension. “His best protection,” Ingram continued, “was to keep killing.”
posted by Urban Hermit at 4:06 PM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, well done MeFi, you've got deep into the pedantry.

I was more amazed by the shameless nature of the collusion with the worst sort of men, and to find out it went on even after the Tories were booted from power in 1997.

According to the news here, a manual explaining how "informants" were to be handled, but Special Branch were explicitly excluded. And the Chief Constable at the time is something like the UK Police Ombudsman, reassuringly.

Anyway, back to the pedants.
posted by imperium at 4:11 PM on January 22, 2007


While we're on the pedantry, Northern Ireland isn't in the British Isles (it's the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), so it's not strictly 'British Police' who did this.

Northern Ireland is in the British Isles. It is not in Great Britain. The police are "British" because they are under the control of the British crown, and because "United Kingdom-ish" isn't a word. Thanks for playing!
posted by Arcaz Ino at 4:23 PM on January 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


It appears thet Scappaticci is still alive - which surprises me no end. There can't be any shortage of trained gunmen who'd like to have a pop at him.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:47 PM on January 22, 2007


Who would do the best film about "the Troubles" - Paul Verhoeven or Mel Gibson?
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on January 22, 2007




Oh god. I knew this story seemed familiar. I thought it was the echo of some horror story.

Which it is , in a way.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:33 PM on January 22, 2007


Thanks for that link urban hermit. That's some cold shit.
posted by srboisvert at 5:33 PM on January 22, 2007


serial killer =/= mass murderer

mass murderer being in this case the more apt description.
posted by subtle_squid at 5:49 PM on January 22, 2007


This makes me think of CIA assassins! Like, the dude who's been so highly trained and was top of his class, and then he goes all crazy and starts killing all these other dudes, and then they have to bring in a team of dudes to try and stop him and then they all get pretty much pwned except for the old guy who leads the team, who originally taught the crazy killer guy, and then they fight to the death and the old guy is, like, Deniro, but still has major skillz and he kills his student but not before realizing it was all the governments fault! Roxorz.

Sorry. Brain lost traction for a second there. I guess I'm trying to say that, for many, there's a kind of unspoken acknowledgment that the government utilizes "killers" in achieving its ends (on the relatively benign side of the scale, we have your enlisted soldier, and on the extreme end, the aforementioned sociopathic assassin with the thallium capsule hovering over your clam chowder because you know too much). Also, it is acknowledged that governments deal with unsavory individuals in order to prevent greater atrocities from happening. We accept this to the point that it makes for blockbuster movie fodder.

Of course it's extremely interesting when these kinds of stories come to light, because we're seeing the player's hands. Governments are gambling with human lives, and in these situations, it's a macabre measurement showing what kinds and how many lives the government is willing to gamble with.
posted by krippledkonscious at 6:01 PM on January 22, 2007


...except for the old guy who leads the team, who originally taught the crazy killer guy, and then they fight to the death and the old guy is, like, Deniro, but still has major skillz and he kills his student but not before realizing it was all the governments fault! Roxorz.

Dude. You left out the most important part. The part where the crazy Assassin guy really WANTS to be killed. But the person who takes him on must be worthy. And 'lo it comes to be his mentor. Or, in a last second twist, the waif child/teen girl the Crazy Assassin befriended while he was on the streets. The waif then goes off to live on a mountain ranch with the kindly wise mentor and his loving gray haired wife. Damn this movie SO kicks ass!

As for the term Serial Killer. It's apt. These guys got off on killing people every bit as much as Bundy. They just didn't fuck the corpses as much.

Special Branch must have lifted this concept from the School for The Americas. We hired LOTS of serial killers. We called them Generalissimo.
posted by tkchrist at 6:13 PM on January 22, 2007


A proper Generalissimo would move up to being a parallel killer.
posted by Artw at 8:12 PM on January 22, 2007




And as usual, the Unionist establishment stick their fingers in their ears and go "la la la I can't hear you":
But the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association said Mrs O'Loan had done undeserved damage to the reputation of "many fine officers", and criticised the public manner in which the investigation had been carried out. Ken Maginnis, a former Unionist MP who is now Lord Maginnis of Drumglass - dismissed the report as "rubbish" and said that collusion with criminal elements helped save lives during the Troubles.
posted by kersplunk at 1:29 AM on January 23, 2007


While we're on the pedantry, Northern Ireland isn't in the British Isles (it's the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), so it's not strictly 'British Police' who did this.

Errr, follow the news much?

The Great British Venn Diagram

The British Isles is the whole geographical area, all of Ireland included. Northern Ireland is part of Britain: you may remember assorted acts of terrorism...

allen.spaulding: We've been dealing with this in Boston for some 40 years.

Since terrorism is out of favour again in Boston, you have my sympathy. Back in the day though I'd have laughed my arse off.
posted by vbfg at 2:17 AM on January 23, 2007


But, vbfg, according your linked diagram Northern Ireland is NOT part of Britain. It is part of the United Kingdom and part of the British Isles, sure, but not (Great) Britain.

Can we agree that it was Special Branch and the Ulster Police that colluded in this atrocity? (Probably not.)
posted by Shave at 4:16 AM on January 23, 2007


relevant to some people above: british isles naming dispute.

The serial killer versus mass murderer, not so relevant.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has directed that no charges be brought against any of those implicated by the report. I would be very surprised if that was the end of this matter though.

Also relevant is the issue of Sinn Fein signing up to policing in the north, which is at a critical point right now, and is critical to the peace process in its entirety. Some members of Sinn Fein are right now screaming for justice on this, while others are pointing out that "it was all a long time ago, it couldn't happen now". Basically its put a lot of stress on an already strained peace process, and its interesting to watch politicians try and talk around what would normally be a huge issue for any government, in the interest of making progress on the peace issue.
posted by kev23f at 5:20 AM on January 23, 2007


"Also relevant is the issue of Sinn Fein signing up to policing in the north" - kev23f

Absolutely. However, it is no surprise that this has not happened yet, simply removing the 'Ulster' from their title isn't enough. Having a police force that represents all communities in NI is essential to finally end the influence of paramilitary groups (of all flavours) and punishment beatings.

Alot of progress seems to have been made in these matters. I don't know who needs to make the concessions to move it on further. On this subject the most educated of guesses always turn out to be ignorant.

As an aside, if a YouTube link of Rev. Ian Paisley saying 'yes' could be found it would be worthy of a FPP.
posted by Shave at 6:29 AM on January 23, 2007


But, vbfg, according your linked diagram Northern Ireland is NOT part of Britain. It is part of the United Kingdom and part of the British Isles, sure, but not (Great) Britain.

UK nationals are British, not UKians. Britain and UK are effective synonyms in popular vernacular, cos Britain refers to the political entity rather than the geographical entity which is Great Britain. The text under the diagram explains this. Well, it repeats it rather than explains it...

I appreciate it's hard though. I first disapproved of my sister's previous boyfriend when he referred to "this island, you know, England". He's lived here forty years now. Just to confuse things further, "this island", i.e the mainland of England, Scotland and Wales, is actually called Albion.
posted by vbfg at 7:37 AM on January 23, 2007


As an aside, if a YouTube link of Rev. Ian Paisley saying 'yes' could be found it would be worthy of a FPP.

I have an MP3 somewhere of him bungee jumping whilst saying "The Anglo-Irish agreement is a disgrace to the people of Ulster". It's actually an impersonater and they're just turning the volume up and down, but it's still the funniest thing that could happen to him that doesn't involve a blindfold and a bullet.
posted by vbfg at 7:40 AM on January 23, 2007


i.e the mainland of England, Scotland and Wales, is actually called Albion.

And yet the Celtic translation Alba is commonly used just for Scotland, though originated as the term for the whole island.

Aargh, I can't even agree with myself on this! If concensus on the geographical terminology is this tricky is it any wonder that (back on topic) the peace process is proving so diffucult
posted by Shave at 8:18 AM on January 23, 2007


...as is spelling 'difficult', apparently.
posted by Shave at 8:20 AM on January 23, 2007


PAY ATTENTION: This is why due process matters. This is why it's a bad idea to allow the government to lock people up without bothering to have a trial. This is why you should mistrust the police.

Why anyone is surprised by this just mystifies me. It's a matter of record that the mainland police were beating confessions out of innocent (Irish) people and fabricating evidence against them a decade before these events.
posted by mr. strange at 9:13 AM on January 23, 2007


IS anyone surprised by this?
posted by Shave at 9:35 AM on January 23, 2007




That cartoon is great.
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:48 AM on January 23, 2007


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